The police phalanxes, Clydesdale horses, and the float carrying St. Patrick had already finished their raucous trek through South Boston late Sunday when a second contingency of marchers brought their parade down a now deserted Dorchester Street.
Participants in the Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade have coalesced around their exclusion from the main parade, which they follow a mile behind. By late afternoon, they are marching down a route littered with the signs of earlier revelry: stumbling stragglers looking for a way home, discarded plastic cups, and spent cigarette butts.
“It’s really idiotic that we’re not allowed in the parade,” said Pat Scanlon, coordinator for the Smedley D. Butler Brigade of Veterans For Peace, which runs the alternative event. “We should have one big parade.”
The South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade is organized by the Allied War Veterans Council, which has long turned away groups that wish to march espousing political causes. Sign-wielding participants in the Peace Parade included members of LGBTQ equality group Boston Pride, anti-drone activists, citizens against nuclear weapons, and some representatives from local churches.
Carlos Arredondo, a hero of last year’s Marathon bombings, co-marshaled the procession this year along with his wife, Melida.
“It’s an honor to be part of this amazing parade in South Boston and joining with hundreds of people from different communities and different backgrounds,” Arredondo said.
The Peace Parade marchers have walked for four years, Scanlon said. Though the crowd thinned significantly in between the two events, he said the participants heard cheers and clapping along the route.
“There were a lot of ‘thank yous’, ‘it’s great that you’re here,’ ‘go pride,” chants, said 15-year-old Cameron Hardie of East Boston, who held a piece of a large rainbow flag in the Peace Parade.
Kare Diaz, 17, of Jamaica Plain also held a piece of the flag and said she felt privileged to walk beside the veterans and other activists. “I felt honored,” she said. “You’re just in awe.”
Dan Luker, 63, of Dorchester said he has been a member of Veterans for Peace for about three years. He served in Vietnam in 1969. “Veterans for Peace is not a bad thing,” he said. “I thought that’s what we were fighting for.”
He and fellow marchers said they will continue to walk separately until all of their groups are welcomed into a single, unified St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“We try every year and we’ll try again next year,” said Paul Caswell, a 73-year-old former Marine from Clinton.
Scanlon said he is hopeful they will achieve that goal before next March. He is optimistic that Mayor Martin J. Walsh can help broker an agreement next year. Walsh refused to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year because organizers and the group MassEquality could not reach a concensus on allowing members to walk in open support of gay rights, after he tried to bring the two groups together.